Passion Is A Unicorn. Purpose is A Lion!

October 20, 2017 •  7 minute read • by Saeed


“The lion is most handsome when he is looking for food.”

~ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد رومی‎‎)

The internet guru industrial complex is replete with this dangerous piece of advice: Follow Your Passion.

We can credit this piece of modern wisdom to the late great Steve Jobs and his iconic 2005 commencement speech that spawned it. That speech has racked up 30 million views on YouTube – a clear indication of its popularity. 20 years earlier, mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell was also advocating for the same general formula for success when he said: Follow Your Bliss.

The irony is that when you study Jobs’ life you realize that he himself did not follow his passion. He stumbled into it.

The Problem With Passion

There are numerous other problems with the passion formula.

The most obvious one is that Follow Your Passion presupposes a pre-existing passion you can discover and then follow.

A second problem is that passion is regarded as a singular pursuit. But you may have several or many passions. This excludes all us multipotentialites out there.

It’s also dangerous advice for the nearly 50% of the global workforce who is frustrated, unhappy and unfulfilled.  How many of us have ever considered quitting your job to pursue our passion?

Answer: many.

I want to extinguish this curse from the lexicon of motivational speakers and bloggers everywhere. Short of that goal being met, I’d like to distinguish between passion and purpose.

Passion Vs. Purpose

Passion is a pink unicorn.

Purpose, on the other hand, is a more meaningful pursuit.

Because while you may have many passions, you only have one purpose.

So, how do you distinguish between passion and purpose?

Passion is defined as “a strong and barely controllable emotion.” This is hardly a stable or useful metric to base your pursuits on. Whether that’s life, career, or the broad, ambiguous, and definition-less concept of “success.”

On the other hand, purpose is defined as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”

If passion is something you follow, then purpose is something that drives you.

Your purpose is your ‘Why’ behind it all. It is the deep reason for your existence.

In his great book,  “Ego is the Enemy,” Ryan Holiday warns us against passion. Passion, he says, is form over function, where purpose is function.

Purpose doesn’t cower in the face of failure.

Purpose isn’t sensitive to criticism or rejection.

Purpose doesn’t quit if things don’t go according to plan.

Passion on the other hand is fickle. It loses interest. It accepts defeat more readily. It is vulnerable to the judgment of others.

Passion does not have direction or reason. Purpose is single-minded.

Passion is for the amateurs. Purpose is for pros.

Let me put it like this: If you wanted to start a fire, you’d grab some logs and matches. To build a proper foundation of wood (purpose) for your flame (passion) you’d put tinder and smaller kindling at the bottom and larger fuel logs on the top. You will find that if your wood foundation isn’t right (your purpose), the fire will keep going out. You can toss in another match and keep stoking the flames (your passion) but your passion will keep burning out until you establish the right foundation. You get the idea. The two go hand-in-hand.

Finding Your Purpose

Instead of chasing the pink passion unicorn, I suggest people focus on finding a purpose—finding ways to leverage your passion and skills to fill a need in the world. Filling a need means providing value to others. Filling a need can run the gamut from creating useful iPhone apps to solving the world’s biggest social impact challenges such as poverty, education, health care, and climate change.

One exercise I’ve recommended to my coaching clients is to pretend they’re writing their own obituary – as if they’re telling the “greatest hits” version of their personal story: their values, their accomplishments and so on. To do this exercise, ask yourself:

  1. Why am I alive today?
  2. What do I want to accomplish with my life?
  3. Who will remember me when I pass from this world?
  4. What will I be most remembered for?

Brainstorm a bunch of stuff. Don’t be afraid to write down as many things as come to mind. Next, eliminate the unnecessary. What could you subtract from your list and still feel like “you” in your life? Finally, as you review your shortened list, see what’s glaring back at you? What refuses to be quiet? What’s the ONE thing you would do with your life if nothing could stop you? Your purpose is what is screaming at you from inside to be manifested.

As a final bit of checks and balances, ask yourself: Am I chasing this because I am proud and excited by this work? Or do I simply want to be impressive and well received by the world?

Do The Work

Once you’ve been able to identify your purpose, go at it with full force. Find it, grow it, and share it with the world. Triple down on the skills that actualize that purpose. Become the expert. Become the pro.

There is no secret formula to success. All there is to do is to systematically over a period of time (10,000 hours) build up a rare and valuable skill and then use that skill to take control of your working life and shift it into directions that resonate with who you are.

So go out there, practice, do and keep on doing until your skills and purpose are aligned and in harmony.

Stop worrying about finding your passion and–instead–actually do the things that excite you and make you feel alive. Your purpose will one day eclipse your passion.

One Final Word

Realism and detachment are necessary. You have to be objective about how good you are, where you’re going and even detached from the outcome at times. You’ll never find out if you’re thrown off by the frustrations and setbacks that passion creates. If you don’t see the results soon enough, you may become flummoxed and give up.

People who are working hard to fill a need and solve the biggest problems are often compensated in the biggest ways, not just in financial terms, but also in terms of human satisfaction. Filling a need shifts the focus from you to others. It shifts the conversation from what you like to do (having a passion or hobby) to how you can be a valuable contributor in helping society fills its needs (having a purpose). This paradigm shift moves the frame of reference from the self to how we can help others. People become less self-absorbed and ironically, more likely to be genuinely happy.

Don’t you sometimes find that you’re happiest when you don’t think too much about how to become happy?

The good news is that there are a lot of big needs in this world to fill. Each of us has the unique skills to fill some subsets of these biggest needs.

How will you change the world?

I can’t wait to see.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

 

 

Emotionally Empathetic Leaders Excel at Everything

 

October 18, 2017 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Steven Covey

I saw a sign once that said “Everything starts with an ‘E’.

True, I thought, ‘everything’ starts with an ‘e’ but empathy starts with ‘u’ – (you).

In 1995, Daniel Goleman, argued the merits of social and emotional intelligence competencies like self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy and their capacity to add value to many domains of life, from workplace effectiveness and leadership to health and relationships

In a recent article, Goleman defines empathy as ‘having the ability to sense others’ feelings and how they see things’ and the ability to take an active interest in their concerns.

When I ask my coaching clients what skills they want to work on as a leader, many identify empathy.

Why is this trait so important to leaders?

As a leader, job one is to influence others towards improvement and change.  There are usually a multitude of ways to get others to change. Effective leaders are able to do advanced thinking to know  which strategy will work best with which individuals. The ability to accurately predict how another person will react emotionally and behaviorally in a given set of circumstances is what empathetic leadership is all about. The better you are at this trait, the more accurate and successful you will be in figuring out the approach that will work when you want to influence others.

Research reported in Scientific American suggests that our levels of empathy – the ability to understand the feelings of others – are lower today than 30 years ago.

An increase in social isolation is one theory used to explain this finding.

The trouble is that when there is no empathy, when we don’t work to understand the needs of others, there is a significant loss of trust. This can have major implications for business where trust is essential for successful leadership and partnerships.

So what if you take a 360-degree assessment of your Emotional Intelligence Competences and find that you score low on empathy. Are you out of luck? Not at all.

While personality traits have a strong genetic component, are hard to “change” and tend to be very stable over time, every trait can be “managed.”

For example, one of my clients is very high on a trait called “Urgency”– a CEO of a successful start up – she tends to be much more impatient than most of the other people she leads. She’s always been that way, and the trait has served her well in some instances. But over the years, she has had to learn how to manage a tendency that can otherwise sabotage her leadership goals. First by becoming aware of it, and then by learning a set of mental strategies that have allowed her to be more mindful in how and when she expresses this trait.

Here’s what you need to work on if you want to be more empathetic as a leader:

1.      Develop self-awareness

Self awareness – the skill of perceiving and understanding your own emotions, is the starting point. There is no way around this. You must be able to identify and understand the impact of your feelings on your thoughts and decisions.  Many of us confuse thoughts to be the same as feelings. So when someone asks how do you feel about a project, you might respond, “I think we have a lot to do.” Or, we might not distinguish between related emotions, for example, between frustration and irritability or happiness and excitement. Developing this self-awareness is a fundamental step towards greater empathy.

2.      Develop awareness of others

Greater understanding of others leads to a greater understanding of how to engage, respond, motivate and connect with them in such a way that you are able to advance mutual goals. This social awareness is at the heart of interpersonal effectiveness. This awareness extends itself to understanding the politics within an organization and how to navigate them and the ability to serve others. Developing awareness of others means you carefully consider what people want, and plan to communicate with them in a way that is intended to meet that need.

3.      Learn to appreciate the major differences among people

One of the best examples of strong skills in empathy is people who have traveled or worked in multicultural environments. They have learned that the way they see and experience things is often different from others. People with little or no skills in empathy might have an intellectual awareness of these differences. However, until they actually experience these differences, their skills in empathy will probably remain quite limited. As Goleman says, empathetic executives are better at international  assignments because ‘they can quickly pick up on the unspoken norms for behavior and the mental models of that culture.’

Goleman has identified the building blocks of emotional intelligence to be:

·        Self-Awareness

·        Self-Regulation

·        Social Awareness

·        Relationship Management

Great leaders understand the importance of social and emotional intelligence in an increasingly globalized, diverse and collaborative workplace. Diversity encompasses acceptance and respect while recognizing individual differences and uniqueness. Open communication plays an essential role in managing diversity as does building an awareness of social situations.

Get it wrong and you’ll be seen as uncaring and insensitive.

Get it right and you will be set up for success.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

What Can Steve McQueen Teach Us About Passion?

October 14, 2017 •  3 minute read • by Saeed


“I scrounged around for the next couple of years, trying to get the scam on the human race and just where the hell I fitted in – I discovered there were no openings.” ~ Steven Terrence McQueen

Follow your passion.

That’s pretty much the mantra of every self-help guru you can shake a stick at. Let’s not stop there. Steve Jobs famously espoused the same formula for bliss. But is that really how it works?

Examining the life of an iconic actor may be instructive in understanding how passion, purpose, and vocation inter-relate.

Steven Terrence McQueen was born on March 24, 1930, in Beech Grove, Indiana.  One of the most popular film actors of the 1960s and ’70s, he was known for his rugged good looks and cool, tough guy persona. McQueen was also a walking paradox. The ‘King of Cool’ was painfully insecure and harbored antediluvian attitudes about women. He said: “I’ve spent too much of my life feeling insecure. I still have nightmares about being poor, of everything I own just vanishing away. Stardom means that can’t happen.”

In his youth, McQueen worked various odd jobs –  oil rigs, carnivals and even as a towel boy in a brothel. In 1947, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and became a tank driver. In 1952, McQueen found himself studying acting with Stella Adler in New York and the rest, as they say, is history.

In 1974, at the height of his fame, Steve McQueen was the highest-paid movie star in the world with a net work of $30 million. One would have thought McQueen had found his passion. But McQueen hated acting. Even though his popularity placed him in high demand and enabled him to command large salaries, he was combative with directors and producers.

“I really don’t like to act. At the beginning, back in ’51, I had to force myself to stick with it. I was real uncomfortable, real uncomfortable.” “I’ll never be as good an actor as I want to be….but I’ll be good.”

Indeed, he was disparaging of his craft. He once said: “In my own mind, I’m not sure that acting is something for a grown man to be doing.”

McQueen only saw acting as a way to become financially secure. His childhood was hard and he grew up poor. As he remarked, “Stardom equals financial success and financial success equals security… I just want the brass ring and the pine trees and my kids and the green grass. I want to get rich and fat and watch my kids grow.”

For McQueen, acting was a job that allowed him to pursue his real passion: racing. As he said, “I’m not sure whether I’m an actor who races or a racer who acts.”

McQueen owned more than a hundred motorcycles and more than 50 classic cars. He was so knowledgeable about motorcycles that he wrote a series of reviews of various models in Popular Science in the mid-1960s. He was often credited with popularizing dirt biking and in 1978 he was rewarded for it by being inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. He tried to tanslate his passion to film when he starred in “Le Mans,” a 1971 film depicting a fictional 24 hours of the famous car race. Much to his disappointment, the film was a box office flop.

His need for speed also included airplanes. He got his pilot’s license and bought several classic old aircraft, including a 1945 Stearman, a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub and a 1931 Pitcairn PA-8 biplane. Towards the end of his life, he lived in an airplane hanger with his third wife and his many acquired toys. His massive collection was sold at auction after his death for many times what he paid for them.

“Racing is life.” McQueen would say. “Anything before or after is just waiting.” That is the very definition of passion.

So for McQueen, even though he was incredibly successful at acting, it was not his passion. One could argue that it was his purpose, but not his passion.

Sadly, 1980 was the year McQueen was diagnosed with mesothelioma, possibly due to contact with asbestos in ships during his time in the Marines and also in sound stage insulation and in the protective suits he wore while racing.   

One final note. McQueen had a reputation for being cheap, which he apparently picked up because of his strange behavior of making unusual demands in his contracts. He asked for cases of electric razors, blue jeans and sanitary items. Later, it was discovered what he was up to. McQueen never forgot the California Junior Boys Republic – a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian school and treatment center for troubled youngsters – where he spent part of his youth. McQueen was obtaining these items and then donating them to the school. He also visited the school to give talks to the boys, established a scholarship there in 1962 and left them money in his will. He was 50 years old when he died.

 

 

 

 

Curiosity and Enthusiasm: The Secret Ingredients to Job Interview Success

October 9, 2017 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


You did your homework. You researched the organization.

You got your elevator pitch down about why you are the ideal candidate.

You selected your best business attire and made sure you “look” the part.

You fine tuned your responses to common behavioral interview questions.

You made a good first impression.

But you didn’t get a call back. Why?

One of the most common reasons is that you failed to show your curiosity and enthusiasm for the job, the people, and the company.

Most interviews have time reserved at the end for you to ask questions. This is your 15 minutes of fame moment. This is where you show off your research skills, your engagement skills, your critical thinking skills, and, perhaps most importantly, your emotional intelligence skills.

As far as knowledge and technical expertise are concerned, you are probably qualified enough for the job. Why would you apply otherwise? And the same logic applies to your competition. If you made it this far, it’s because you’re being considered in a pool of other qualified candidates.

So at this stage, they are not only evaluating you to see if your qualifications are a match and that you are a good fit, they are evaluating you to see if you really want the job. If you are allowing yourself to be grilled for 45 minutes and then freezing when it’s your 15 minute window of opportunity to demonstrate your curiosity and enthusiasm, you will disappoint.

What should your approach be instead?

You have to think of an interview as a two-way dialogue than a one-way dissection of your resume. There are several distinct advantages to this approach.

By flipping your perspective, you can actually use an interview as an opportunity to learn more about the role you are applying for and if it would be an good fit for you.

Asking thoughtful questions will signal to the interviewer your preparedness and interest in the position. It will also demonstrate that you are not just there to take any job. You want to be successful so you are evaluating the position accordingly. It signals that you value yourself and that therefore, you are of value.

Carefully think about questions that help clarify or shed more light on the actual role for which you are applying. Think through questions that you cannot readily find the answer to through public sources like company profile pages.

Then, make sure you do the following:

  1. Engage them in an authentic dialogue. It’s really important to leverage your natural curiosity to identify questions that can help facilitate a dialogue. Write down the questions you have – interviewers notice when candidates have taken the time to research the company and come prepared with some thoughtful questions. Have five or six questions ready to ask and don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions – it’s a more natural way to engage in conversation.
  2. Ask what you really want to know. There are questions everyone wants to ask that may feel “risky” or too controversial so if you are going there, carefully phrase the question so it’s less negative and more constructive. For instance, if you really want to know how much travel the role will involve, you could frame it as something along the lines of: “I realize there is some travel involved with this role, but I was curious if you had a perspective about work-life fit at your company overall.”
  3. Get to the heart of the matter. Pose your questions in such a way that you can gain some level of insight from them. Remember that answers are providing you more detail to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of starting your new job. To do this, you must know the job description well and learn to read between the bullet points.
  4. Make sure you tailor your questions to your interviewer. Don’t ask senior leaders questions about what their first year was like. Ask instead about growth in his or her particular area or ask about learning and development opportunities. Save the first year question for the less senior team members who interview you.
  5. Use your social and emotional intelligence. Be cognizant of verbal or body language that communicates to you that the interview is wrapping up or concluding.

Interviews are conversations. Conversations that can help you learn more about the company and the role for which you are applying. By taking time to develop thoughtful questions, you can advance your knowledge and gain insight about the organization, while also helping you stand out in the interview process.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content and Photography by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

What is the Impact of a Single Image?

September 30, 2017 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


Author’s Note: The photos in this story may be distressing to some viewers.

The strength of an image lies in its ability to quickly create a strong emotional connection with a very broad audience.

childlabor5In the early 1900s, child labor was still extremely common in the United States. It was not unheard of for child laborers to work 19 hour days with just a one hour break. The National Child Labor Committee wanted to end the practice but statistics weren’t having the effect they had hoped. So, in 1908, they enlisted the help of Lewis Hine and his camera to spread the word.

Hine was perhaps the earliest example of an investigative photojournalist and documentarian. Over the course of the next ten years, he surreptitiously photographed exploited children in disguise. At various times he went undercover as a bible salesman, postcard salesman, or as an industrial photographer making a record of factory machinery. His fifty pounds of photographic equipment was harder to conceal and when he was unable to win his confrontations with management, he simply waited outside the canneries, mines, factories, farms, and sweatshops and photographed children as they entered and exited the workplace. It was these photos, along with the detailed captions, that ultimately ended child labor in the United States

migrantmother-616x800

In 1936, Dorothea Lange took up a job for the federal Resettlement Administration, documenting rural poverty and the exploitation of migrant laborers. When her car broke down on the way to work, Lang spotted Florence Owens Thompson and her children. She snapped just a few shots, one of which resulted in arguably one of the most iconic photographs of all time. Migrant Mother, as it came to be known, became synonymous with the Great Depression – a symbol of an era. The image is remarkable because it simultaneously depicts the dignity of the subject concomitant with victimization of her by class.

VULTUREIn the latter half of the century, when South African photojournalist Kevin Carter captured a single image showing a starving Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture, he won the 1994 Pulitzer for feature photography. The photograph, raised a lot of money for relief agencies. The photographer, on the other hand, came under very heavy criticism by the public for failing to intervene. Carter had been advised not to touch the victims because of disease, so instead of helping, he spent 20 minutes waiting hoping that the bird would take flight. When it didn’t, Carter scared the scavenger away and watched as the child continued its crawl to help. He then lit a cigarette, talked to God and wept. Subsequent research revealed that the child survived but died 14 years later from malarial fever. Carter on the other hand, tormented and broke, took his own life in July 1994, writing, “I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain.” In this instance, the impact was also on the photographer.

gettyimages-591717242_custom-f98328fcdb082ecc3bee9051d117dcdfb523e988-s800-c85In the age of social media, scale is everything. In 2015, when the photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying face down on a sandy beach in Turkey hit the newswire, it woke up the world to the Syrian refugee crisis. Similarly, the 2016 image of Omran Daqneesh, a bloody faced 5 year old little Syrian boy covered head to toe in a thick layer of dust after he was rescued from a building in Aleppo hit by an air strike. His bare feet dangling over the edge of his orange chair, he looks stunned and dazed.

After these images surfaced, international humanitarian groups saw a surge in donations and their impact has since become the focus of a research study examining just how a single image could have more impact than statistical reports, charts, and graphs combined.

The human brain is wired for images. It processes images 60,000 times faster than text. In fact, 90% of information transmitted to our brains is visual.

And Images are immensely powerful. They have the ability to shift public opinion. The sear social issues into our consciousness. They offer glimpses into other people’s worldviews, cultivate empathy, and they have the power to galvanize public support. Indelible images like those showcased above can make someone remember a cause or campaign for years.

In the age of viral photos and memes on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook images range in their power from increasing your web traffic to increasing your social impact. If you consider that you’ll generate up to 94% more post views by adding compelling visual content, images make common sense. Since the use of images and visual storytelling, simply defined as a narrative that is told through the mode of visual media, is cheaper and more accessible than ever before, the question has to be: why are you not incorporating visual storytelling into your nonprofit’s media strategy?

This post is dedicated to the work and memory of Kevin Carter.799_images

Hate your boss? Learn to Manage Up!

September 21, 2017 •  6 minute read • by Saeed


“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager. ”

-Bob Nelson

Sorry people, in this post, we’re going to get real. In fact, this is less blog post and more intervention for those of you out there who just can’t get along with your boss.

If you feel you are more intelligent and gifted than those above you, then this article is for you. What you need to know is that there are just some truths you can’t avoid when it comes to the wild and wacky world of work. And it doesn’t get more real than when you have to deal with the boss you despise.

Whether you like it or not, you chose this ship (no one forced you to take that job) and it’s now up to you to navigate the murky waters in which you swim. If you didn’t already know, the most significant factor impacting your job satisfaction is your relationship with your boss. Managing up doesn’t mean sucking up but it does require you to tap into your higher self. The best way to do that is to, well, suck it up and face some cold hard truths.

Cold hard truth #1: Your are expendable. Remember, the most advanced technical skills and content knowledge do not supersede the relationship you have with your boss. That’s a harsh place to start but I felt I needed to first stick your face in a bucket of ice water and wake you up. Now you’re ready to hear the rest.

Cold hard truth #2: Most managers are either overextended, overwhelmed, or downright incompetent. Yup, I said it. Incompetent. That’s because they never learned the art and science of management. They were just thrown into it. While it may be hard, the best approach here is empathy and compassion. Seriously.

Cold hard truth #3: Even if your boss has some serious shortcomings, it’s in your best interest, and it’s your responsibility, to make the relationship work. That’s right. It’s your responsibility, not theirs. Once you get your head around that, you’ll be able to walk the higher ground. And walk the higher ground, you must.

Cold hard truth #4: Your job is to support your boss’ success. Whatever you actual job may be, that’s your real job. It’s not to drag them down, show them up, or step over or around them. This is your mission and you have no choice but to accept it if you want to be successful at your job.

Cold hard truth #5: As much as you’d like to see them crawl back under the rock from which they came, you are going to have to muster up some EQ and nurture your relationship. Get to know them as a person. I’m not saying go ice skating together but you do need to have a sense of them as a person, their motivations and their struggles. Simple questions about them as a human being can a go a long way to building empathy for them as a person.

Cold hard truth #6: Understand their goals. By understanding their goals, you’ll be able to calibrate what you do to what their desired outcomes and objectives are for themselves and the company. Everything you do is directly tied to that.

Cold hard truth #7: It is up to you to find a way to be a genuine source of help. That means being the most effective employee you can be and  creating value for your boss and the company. It doesn’t matter that you hate your job. Remember, you chose your job, it did not choose you.

Cold hard truth #8: You have to educate them on You. Research shows that great managers uncover what’s unique about each person on the team and then exploit it (I mean that in a good way). Instead of having the arrogant expectation that they should know you, help them uncover what’s great about you.  Tell them your strengths, your struggles, how you deal with pressure and conflict and what lights your fire. Help them help you.

Cold hard truth #9: Your boss is not a prescient mind-reader. Learn to communicate proactively and to anticipate their needs. Ask what they need or better yet, do what they need before they have to ask you to do it. Align your needs with their goals. Find their preferred method of communication and use it. If they like to read bullet points, don’t write long rambling emails that frustrate them. Even if they don’t ask, keep them updated on your projects and progress. And if your boss is a micromanager, the more outgoing information you convey, they less they will ask about what’s happening.

Cold hard truth #10: You may have to help your boss become a better leader. I know that’s so hard to swallow when you think or know you could do it better yourself. John Baldoni, author of “Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up” says that great leaders have established the three Cs necessary to become an influential leader – competency, credibility and confidence. Your boss may lack one or all three. Help to support their weaknesses and you will reap the rewards.

Before you go…

Remember how at the top we acknowledged that you are more intelligent and gifted than those above you.  Well, maybe you are. And maybe, you should give your boss some credit for that. The best leaders make every attempt at building their organizations with people who are brighter and more talented than they are. This is a laudable practice that should be admired by workers, not resented.

Despite your best efforts to build a good relationship, there may come a time when you’ve lost your boss’s trust. It happens. And while it may take some diligent effort on your part, it is possible to put the relationship back on track.  Be mindful. Be grateful. Be patient. Have a good attitude. Be positive. Do the best job you can do. If your work doesn’t speak for itself, or if it does and isn’t being recognized, rather than act out, move on honorably and look for a better fit.

Good luck.

 

The Nonprofit Sector Lacks the Urgency Needed to make Meaningful Impact

September 19, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“People like to chop wood because they see immediate results.” ~ Albert Einstein

I have been in the social sector for the entire 30 years of my career. As part of that career, I have sat in endless meetings where planners and self-appointed ‘leaders’ discuss and process information in steering committees, action teams, work groups, and task forces. The results are always disappointingly similar. The ratio of talk to action is disproportionate. One could argue that the reasons for this are multi-faceted and complex. They are not. The reason is simple. There is a lack of urgency in the social sector. If a particular program isn’t launched on time, no heads will roll in the same way that heads will roll if Apple misses its next iPhone launch date. The for-profit sector is driven by shareholder demands and the pressure is intense. The nonprofit sector is driven by its commitment to quality and service.

In the nonprofit sector, the pressure for raising funds to meet demand can be intense and this is where I have seen urgency take hold.

I once worked on a crowdfunding campaign for a suicide hotline. The hotline was losing vital state sponsored support that essentially decimated its entire operation within a few short months. Without a clear path to donors to fill the gap, we turned to the crowd. The entire organization pulled together, leveraged photography, film and story to make a compelling case and reached the campaign goal of $100,000 beating the time and money goal we had set for ourselves.

Urgency moves people to action. Many of the issues that we deal with in the nonprofit sector are chronic and lack such urgency. Homelessness, education, criminal justice reform, and so on. We simply accept that such change and reform ‘takes time.’

Urgency breeds innovation. When we are resolute that the issues we are working on ‘take time,’ we are less likely to innovate. Innovation often results from an urge to solve an immediate problem at hand. When we don’t see the problems as immediate, we fail to innovate on their behalf.

Urgency breeds true collaboration. So many collaborative efforts suffer from talk and no action. When we infuse urgency into the scenario, partnerships and collaborations take on new meaning. They become a need rather than a nice-to-have. Oh, it would be nice to have so and so at the table vs. we must have this person’s skills because without it we won’t make our timeline.

Urgency necessitates a structured plan. And this is where I see most initiatives, campaigns, projects, and programs fail. Because there is no urgency, there is also no structure. By this I mean:

  • No clear goals are articulated
  • No clear outcomes are articulated
  • No clear pathway to change is articulated
  • No clear work plan for change is articulated
  • No clear metrics for measuring change are articulated
  • No clear accountability mechanism is articulated to maintain and measure progress

For the sector to be successful at scale, it has to change its mindset and approach. It has to adopt an urgency to its approach that is calibrated to the urgency of issues we face in communities. Unless we do so, change will continue to be painstakingly slow.

The Building Block of American Enterprise Has Always Been Immigrants (And Why Steve Bannon Needs a History Lesson)

September 11, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.” ~ John F. Kennedy

“Remember, remember, always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

In his already famous 60 Minutes interview with Charlie Rose, rhetorical bomb-thrower Steve Bannon argues the merits of a Darwinian political environment and is on the attack against the usual targets, which to Bannon  is everyone who doesn’t fall in line with his nihilist ideology: Hillary Clinton, the democrats, the republicans, the “pearl-clutching mainstream media,”  the Catholic Church, the establishment, the George Bush White House, the elites, the “limousine liberals,” and of course immigrants.

In one particular exchange, in response to Rose pointing out that the US was conceived as a melting pot, Bannon disagrees vehemently and shoots back: “You couldn’t be more dead wrong. America was built on her citizens.”

Mr. Bannon, you couldn’t be more wrong.

The United States has always been a land of immigration. Anthropologically speaking, that trend started when the first indigenous people crossed the ice bridge connecting Asia to North America some 12,000 years ago.

Historically speaking, it wasn’t until the end of the 15th century that Europeans set their eyes on the New World in numbers. The French and Spanish were the first to establish settlements before the English and Dutch, among others, founded their first permanent colonies. On the eve of the American Revolution, the land was already a kaleidoscope of languages and ethnicities.

The workers who built the railroad came from the ranks of immigrants who found refuge in America following the Civil War. Every mile of track laid by hand; every spike driven into the ground; and every wooden tie was lifted into place by railroad workers primarily from Italian, Irish, and Chinese descent.

The Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s attracted more immigrants as businesses in the United States grew quickly. New technology and new ideas helped develop large factories where many new products were made. These businesses needed more workers to keep growing. Immigrants and migrants filled the labor demands of the new industrial order, transforming the nation.

Between 1882 and 1914 approximately twenty million immigrants came to the United States. Mass immigration from eastern and southern Europe dramatically altered the population’s ethnic and religious composition. Unlike earlier immigrants, who had come primarily from northern Europe—Britain, Germany, Ireland, and Scandinavia—the “new immigrants” came increasingly from Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Russia.

By 1900, New York City had as many Irish residents as Dublin. It had more Italians than any city outside Rome and more Poles than any city except Warsaw. It had more Jews than any other city in the world, as well as sizeable numbers of Slavs, Lithuanians, Chinese, and Scandinavians.

Modern times have been no different exemplified by some of the titans of business.

Steve Jobs’ father was a Syrian refugee.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft is an Indian immigrant. So is Sundar Prachai, CEO of Google.

Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder was a Soviet-born refugee.

Throughout American history, millions of people around the world have left their homelands for a chance to start a new life in this country. Despite many difficulties, both immigrants and migrants forged new communities in their adopted homes.

From the forefathers’ first steps, to the challenges faced in today’s globalized world, immigrants have always been part of the American story and part of the solution, not the problem. It is historical revisionism to believe otherwise.

How To Build Career Longevity

September 8, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


” Most people fail, not because of lack of desire, but, because of lack of commitment.” ~ Vince Lambardi
Career longevity is no longer about staying in one job for years on end.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wage and salary workers have been with their current employer for a median of 4.6 years (that doesn’t include the 14 million Americans who are self-employed free agents).

A word of caution: that is not a free pass to job hop. Shifting gears too often or pulling a 180 to do something completely different than your expertise can sabotage your efforts at building career longevity. Job hopping frequently because you can’t get along with your coworkers or management or because you lack focus and don’t know what you want in your life can be a career killer. Change is not what does you in. It’s the frequency of the changes.

We are not talking about people with legitimate reasons to make change. The bad boss is the classic. Sometimes we’re stuck in a job that is not good for us or we need a career change. In these instances, change can be good.

That statistic simply represents a major generational shift where the trend has moved towards more change more often. In places like Silicon Valley, not only is it acceptable, it can even be a badge of honor.   For the millennial set, it’s simply the way things are.

But as a whole, building longevity is no longer about staying with one company and holding out for the gold watch.

Rather, it’s about staying fresh and building career equity.

You build equity (and therefore longevity) by developing a set of skills, contacts and relationships as well as behaviors that value self improvement and the kind of adaptability that will allow you to be seen as a change maker, not someone who wants to cling to the status quo.

So how long should you stay at your job? Well, it takes about two years to build career equity or a return on the individual’s investment of time, energy and skill that is meaningful to a firm and to the individual’s career.

If you just started a new job and you are worried about your staying power, or if you don’t know how to intentionally build career equity, get a coach. If the company does not provide one, hire one yourself or take the initiative to develop relationships with peers and “go-to” people for support. Avoid violating career threatening, yet unwritten rules. This is critical to making the new start a success and to building momentum.

Remember, the way we manage endings helps us take advantage of new beginnings and build career equity, and thereby, career longevity.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

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3 Ways To Disrupt the Nonprofit Sector

September 7, 2017 •  6 minute read • by Saeed


“If you’re in the luckiest one per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.”

― Warren Buffet

Get this: the IRS approves tax exemption for new community benefit groups every 10-15 minutes!

Over  50,000 new nonprofits are recognized by the IRS as tax exempt organizations EACH YEAR.

That amounts to nearly 2 million nonprofit organizations in the United States.

Most nonprofits are small. More than 73 percent of public charities report annual expenses of less than $500,000. Less than 4 percent had expenses greater than $10 million.

In every vertical there are hundreds or thousands of nonprofits with similar names and missions competing for donors, activists, publicity and brand awareness, and followers on social media.

If nonprofits are going to truly solve the world’s toughest social issues and obtain the necessary resources to do it right, they need to examine how the sector can evolve to create more innovative and effective organizations.

Disruption #1: Harness the Power of Technology

The social sector is still very much in the nascent stages of what could be a significant transformation in harnessing the power of technology. The convening power of the Internet, rapid advances in technology, and the reduced costs of launching new applications in today’s wired world means that nonprofit organizations have an ever increasing array of tools to reach constituents with their key messages. But to take advantage of these advances, today’s nonprofits must race to adapt their business models to achieve their intended purpose with greater impact. For today’s nonprofit organization, the new digital landscape provides a multitude of opportunities to recreate yesterday’s broken business models while creating meaningful and sustainable long-term scalable impact.

However, the adoption rate of the social sector to leverage and harness the power of these new tools is still painfully slow and funders are not helping. The funding climate for nonprofits is still such that little attention is paid by funders to basic infrastructure needs. Nonprofits fluctuate between tracking a lot, or hardly anything at all. it appears that the social sector, which has traditionally had a low-tech/high touch sense of itself, is slower to adopt and optimize these enabling new technologies to communicate, collaborate, connect, build capacity, and build communities of learning and practice.

Disruption #2: Think More Like a For Profit

By no means do I want to suggest that a nonprofit is similar to a for-profit or that practices within the for-profit sector should be adopted wholesale. Still, the nonprofit sector is painfully inefficient. There is a reason for this. Where in the profit based corporate entity is motivated by delivering shareholder value, the public  benefit corporation is driven by its commitment to service. In the for profit model, there is built in incentives towards productivity and efficiency. Such incentives are practically non-existent in the non-profit sector.

Furthermore, in places like Silicon Valley, it’s almost a right of passage to test new ideas quickly, fail fast and fail forward. And there is a lot to be learned from failing. How does failing fast work in the nonprofit world, particularly when it’s donors or foundations money? The nonprofit sector is allergic to failure and that predilection leads to less risk taking and therefore less innovation.

Disruption #3: Change Funding Mechanisms

Grants and donations are the traditional funding mechanism but they are increasingly harder to obtain. Further complicating matters, funders can also be incredibly slow in approving grant proposals with their due diligence process. Once approved, they may restrict funds not allowing for flexibility to direct funds towards general operating costs or they may limit the funds nonprofits need directed at critical infrastructure instead requiring funds to be directed towards programming. Nonprofits are loathe to push back on unreasonable expectations  at the risk of losing funders.

Stronger sustainable funding mechanisms are needed as a holistic approach to fundraising that moves beyond traditional tactics such as securing grants or tapping a few wealthy corporate or personal patrons.

Some nonprofits are learning to become self-reliant (and therefore self-sustainable). For example, they offer trainings to members or peer organizations for a fee to generate income. Just as in the private sector, a thorough business plan, market analysis, and consideration of what you have to offer and who might be willing to pay for it are core elements of instituting a fee-for-service model.

Crowdfunding, originally used by entrepreneurs as a way to attract small-sized investments to for-profit ventures, is now widely available to nonprofits as well.

Nonprofits can also take advantage of economies of scale through shared services and back office support models that have added benefits of efficiency and better use of resources. Clearly however, more innovation (and disruption) is needed.

In Summary

  1. As a community, the social sector (nonprofits and their funders) should be self-reflective in asking ourselves some critical questions:
  2. What are ways we (as funders) might be unintentionally adding to the problem?
  3. Are we allowing leaders to do their work, or forcing them unnecessary administrative burden upon them?
  4. Are we building infrastructure or demanding services without the prerequisite capacity needed to deliver these services?
  5. Are our processes forcing nonprofits to compete with one another instead of collaborating?
  6. Are we too narrowly focused on a single issue when so many societal issues are interrelated?
  7. When we use the word “partnership” with our grantees, are we ignoring the inherent power differential in the funder-grantee relationship?
  8. Do we take enough risks? Have we failed enough to say that we do?

Finally, I’d love to hear from you. What are your ideas for disrupting the nonprofit sector?